Is Microsoft's Europe agreement a big deal?

If open source developers find greater protection for their work and its results in Europe than in America that's where they will gravitate. That's the kind of regime the EU is trying to create. We ignore that and dismiss that at our peril.

Flag of the European Union
American developers interviewed yesterday by Paula Rooney do not believe the agreement by Microsoft to obey Europe's anti-trust edict is a big deal.

Let me beg to disagree.

It's true that the protocols whose code is being released here are, in current development terms, nearly obsolete. It's also true that, in the U.S., a lot of what Microsoft does is still protected by patents.

But two important points need to be made:

  1. This is a precedent. What took 10 years to accomplish the first time may take much less time to accomplishment when the same type of case comes up again.
  2. Europe does not have America's patent regime, so the concerns of developers here about Microsoft's patents don't apply.

Americans are not accustomed to seeing real competition for software jobs, based on business conditions or (more to the point) legal frameworks. We assume that America is the world, much as a kid with ADHD may only see his view of the world, and fail to account for the world's view of him.

I sometimes call ADHD the American disease. Europeans say it's nearly unknown there, but if you were a European with ADHD a century or two ago, and didn't know why you couldn't fit in, my guess is you'd be on the next boat out.

We still think in that way. It's part of our national makeup to see America as the world. But that just isn't true anymore.

If open source developers find greater protection for their work and its results in Europe than in America that's where they will gravitate. That's the kind of regime the EU is trying to create. We ignore that and dismiss that at our peril.

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